Articles for Editors

How Do I Keep My Editing Skills Sharp?

No matter how long you’ve been working as an editorial freelancer, you need to work at keeping your skills sharp and up to date. Here are some ways to accomplish that.

Read

Read books on how to write as well as how to edit. Here are some suggestions:

GENERAL

  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Bird by Bird Anne Lamott
  • Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain

NONFICTION

  • Writing Successful Self-Help & How-to Books by Jean Marie Stine
  • How To Get Your Book Published by Robert W. Bly
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction, edited by Carolyn Forche

FICTION

  • Story by Robert McKee
  • Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins
  • Creating Fiction, edited by Julie Checkoway
  • Creating Characters by Dwight Swain
  • Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
  • The Art & Craft of Novel Writing by Oakley Hall
  • Practical Tips for Writing Popular Fiction by Robyn Carr
  • Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman

EDITING

  • Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
  • Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide
  • Editing Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide
  • Copyediting: A Practical Guide by Karen Judd
  • The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn
  • and just for fun, Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss (It contains British punctuation rules, which are different from US rules. But it’s hilarious fun for those of us who enjoy spotting mistakes!)

Study

Make sure you have the latest editions of the appropriate reference books. Or better yet, use the online version when that’s an option. For example:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style (for books)
  • The Associated Press Stylebook (for articles)
  • Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (for books)
  • Webster’s New World College Dictionary (for articles)
  • The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style (for Christian books)

Get into the habit of looking up any word you are not 100 percent sure of the spelling for. (And read the definition and part of speech to make sure you’re using the right spelling for that usage.) Look up punctuation rules and style guidelines. Don’t rely on what you think you know, or what you remember from high school or a writing course you took, or even the collaborative opinions of other writers or English teachers. The rules for books are different from the rules for term papers or articles.

Take Classes and Workshops

Attend writers conferences so you can polish your writing skills and meet other people in the business.

Enroll in local adult education courses, or take correspondence or online classes in writing for publication, creative writing, journalism, editing—whatever area you may need to brush up on or wish to expand into.

The PEN Institute offers a variety of online courses specifically for editorial freelancers.

Keep Up to Date with Your Rates

Christian freelance editing rates vary depending on fields of editing, editor experience, and personal choice. This chart, created by Jayna Baas at The Christian PEN, shows ranges of rates charged by members of The Christian PEN and includes “average” rates for Christian freelance editors. We encourage all editors to accurately value their time and skill.

See What It’s Like

Hire a professional editor to critique some of your own writing. Not only will this help you improve your skills, but you’ll get a good feel for how your clients may respond when they get edits from you. You may even want to send your work to two or three editors to pick up on different editing styles.

 

What Are the Average Rates for Editorial Freelancing?

 

Freelance editing rates vary depending on fields of editing, editor experience, and personal choice. The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network has a web page with a chart of Christian freelance editing rates.

 For general-market editing rates, visit the Editorial Freelancers Association’s rates page.

 These tools can help you determine your own rates, taking into account your years of experience, training, and other factors.

 

What’s the Importance of Contracts and Agreements?

 

Contracts between editorial freelancers and their clients can be oral, written, or electronic; formal or informal. A contract doesn’t need to be written in legalistic language. It is simply a list of terms to which both parties agree. When difficulties arise, people tend to forget oral agreements, or see them as disadvantageous to them, or remember the terms differently. In such cases, a written document can be consulted.

You may wish to draw up an agreement and send two copies to the client, requesting that the client sign both copies and return them to you by mail. You would then sign both copies, retain one, and mail the other to the client. That way each of you has a copy with both signatures. You could also use an agreement that’s electronically signed by you and the author.

Contract Checklist

You want your contract to cover as many issues as possible in order to avoid misunderstandings. No one can foresee every necessary contract term, but the following checklist can help ensure that key issues are addressed.

  • Names and addresses of both parties
  • Date on which the contract takes effect
  • Status of freelancer (contractor vs. employee)
  • Date on which the project or parts of the project are due to both freelancer and client
  • Description of services being offered/requested
  • Schedule by which the project is planned to proceed
  • Party responsible for purchasing supplies, equipment, and additional services
  • Basis of freelancer’s compensation (project fee, hourly rate, or other agreed-upon arrangement)
  • Amount of freelancer’s compensation
  • Billable expenses
  • Schedule of billings and payment
  • Interest charges for late payment
  • Applicability of reservation fees, rush fees, late fees, or cancellation fees
  • Conditions in case of project termination
  • Copyright holder for final publication
  • Whether the freelancer’s name will be printed in the credits upon publication
  • Complimentary copy/copies of the final publication
  • Special considerations, such as equipment needed and any reimbursement for equipment, prospect of project’s interruption, possibility of subcontracting a portion of the project, etc.

Resolving Conflicts

The first step in resolving any conflict is discussion. In most cases, renegotiation can resolve difficulties if both parties are willing to address the concerns with compassion and understanding.

Failing that, there are legal remedies available. Mediation and arbitration are two possibilities. Other remedies involve lawsuits, which everyone generally prefers to avoid.

If a client owes you a relatively small amount of money, you may be able to take the matter to small claims court, where cases are decided by a judge, without the advice (and expense) of an attorney. Procedures for small claims courts vary from state to state.

For both freelancers and clients, court action is a last resort. Although it may be necessary when other measures have failed, the costs of bringing a lawsuit to court—in time, money, and frustration—usually outweigh the possible gain.

 

 

How Can I Network with Other Editors?

 

Don’t be afraid of competition. One of the exciting aspects of Christian publishing is that we actually help one another. Successful authors mentor aspiring writers, teaching them how to improve their craft. Christian editors can help one another too.

We all have different specialties, different personalities, and different methods. No one editor will be the perfect choice for every author. And no one editor could handle all the workload! Get to know other editors, find out their specialties, and offer to swap work whenever you get a job you don’t have time for or isn’t in your area of expertise.

One way to accomplish this is through The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network.. They have a helpful and informative website (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and a friendly yet professional online discussion loop. The network is open to any born-again believer who is doing freelance editing or proofreading, either part-time or full-time, or is considering the possibility of getting into the field.

For a small annual fee, contributing members can have their bios posted on the website, receive a quarterly electronic newsletter, get a discount on online courses offered through The PEN Institute, teach TPI courses, write articles for the website and newsletter, and more.

To find out more, visit www.TheChristianPEN.com.

How Do I Survive the “Feast or Famine” Syndrome?

 

Getting established as a freelancer can be difficult. And sometimes it can become a “feast or famine” venture.

Some months there’s more work than you know how to handle (which is often a mixed blessing) and other months you wonder if you’ll have enough income to pay the bills (and your friends and family members start nagging you to “get a real job”).

On top of that, you’re occasionally asked to work on projects outside your areas of expertise. If you don’t know who to refer such jobs to, your only options are to attempt the work anyway (and hope you do a decent job of it) or turn down the business. A tough choice!

Christian Editor Connection can help!

As a CEC editor, you’ll receive job leads for projects that fit your unique specialties and areas of expertise. This can help fill in the gap when your own marketing efforts aren’t bringing in enough work. If you’re swamped when you receive a lead, just let us know that you won’t be bidding on that one.

When you’re asked to take on a project that isn’t right for you, directing the author to Christian Editor Connection is far better than taking on a job you’re not well qualified for … or saying, “Sorry, but I’m not the best editor for you. Look somewhere else.” When those authors use CEC to connect with editors who are good fits for their projects, they will be grateful to you for the referral. When they need an editor for a different project, they’ll remember you. And if someone they know is looking for an editor of a manuscript that fits your qualifications, they’ll likely direct him or her to you.

Being a good referral source will ultimately do far more for your professional reputation than taking on the wrong project and doing a mediocre job.

To apply to join Christian Editor Connection, fill out the online application.

 

Christian Editor Connection